Croatia September 2015.

Saturday 29th August to Saturday 12th September - Total Nautical Miles: 295 Nautical Miles -Crew: Andy Prior, Sarah Prior, Tom Bell and Lisa Thorpe

Boat Type – Hanse 345

Name:  - ‘No Name’

Construction - 2015

Length - 10.4 metres

Number of cabins - 3

Berths - 6 + 2

Draft - 1.87m

Engine  - 30hp

Main - Fully Battened

Foresail - Self tacking

Steering - Twin wheel

 

Day 1 Arrival

We arrived into Split airport mid-morning and then embarked on a 3 hour minibus transfer, which included a small section through Bosnia, before arriving at Dubrovnik marina around 7.00pm. As we had chartered a boat from this company before the paperwork didn’t take long and we were aboard our yacht within an hour and unpacked and familiarised ourselves with the boat, which was an almost new Hanse 345. Having previously chartered a Hanse 355 we were pleasantly surprised by the boat as it felt surprisingly bigger and roomer despite being a foot shorter. This had been achieved by some clever packaging, featuring a much wider beam placed right at the stern, coupled with a very large fold out bathing platform and twin wheels. Other nice touches included mood lighting, double fridge and every rope fed back to the aft cockpit and hidden in a compartment above the locker when not in use. The Instruments on the boat were also noticeably better with everything visible from either wheel and the ‘plotter’ resembled an upmarket sat nav with touch screen and ‘route planning’, even if it did take nearly two weeks to understand. We also took delivery of the optional gennaker and were a little surprised that the label on the bag read Oceanis 411, but more of that later.

 

Day 2 Dubrovnik – Kobas 19 Nm

By morning everyone was keen to get started so we gingerly slipped our morning at around 9.00am and carefully manoeuvred out of the crowded marina. Like the previous Hanse the boat responded well under engine and given its relatively small size never posed too many mooring challenges, although a bow thruster would have provided extra assurance.

Once out of the marina and after a short deviation to view Dubrovnik from the sea, we headed north towards Kobas in the relatively calm waters of the channel between the mainland and the row of islands, of which Sipan is the largest. The wind was very light so we decided to motor until lunch and found a very nice bay just north of Slano to anchor and have lunch. Aided by the efficient electric winch and the lack of wind this was a simple affair and we came to rest in around 5 meters of water. We had to be a little carful with depth as the instruments on this boat measured depth from the water line rather than the bottom of the keel so 1.8 metres needed to be deducted. This was complicated in the first few days by the fact that the expensive ‘hi tech’ plotter was showing depth in feet instead of metres, fortunately the two logs were both set to meters from the start.

After lunch we lifted the anchor and continued our course to Kobas which is at the entrance to the Ston Canal, which as the name suggests is a man-made river connecting the town of Ston with the sea. Despite the wind not having increased much we decided to put the sails up so everyone could get used to them whilst under no pressure. On the Hanse this is a very simple operation with the foresail being small and self-tacking and despite the mainsail being fully battened with lazy Jacks it was easy to hoist. We sailed for a few miles but as we were making very little progress after half an hour we decided to take them down and motor to Kobas where we arrived there at around 3.30pm. We found there was plenty of room to moor stern to on any of the three small restaurants’ docks. Having previously done some Trip Advisor research, using the boats excellent 4g Wi-Fi router, we plumped for Luka’s restaurant and backed slowly up to the dock to secure our stern lines and pick up the lazy line with which Tom quickly secured the bow. This went pretty smoothly for our first attempt and was incident free. We discovered early on that the fold down bathing platform assisted with this as we could lower it prior to going astern and could lay our stern lines on each corner making them very easy to pass ashore. We celebrated our first mooring with a well-earned gin and tonic having secured a bottle of tonic from Luka’s, for which we were never charged. Later that evening we had a very good meal at Luka’s for a ridiculously low price.

Day 3 – Kobas – Pomena 24 Nm

After obtaining some bread from Luka’s we set sail for Pomena on the Island of Miljet. As this was 24 nautical miles we motored all morning taking a direct route across the channel and then heading north up the coast of Miljet. According to our plotter and pilot book there were no obvious lunch time stop overs so we just hugged the coast and explored any suitable looking inlet. Having rejected Sobra we moved further up the coast and found a deserted bay with lovely green water and 4 to 5 meters of water. This proved to be one of the nicest bays we stayed at all holiday and the photos don’t really do it justice.

After a long lunch we left the bay and continued to head north towards Pomena and the national park.  The wind had picked up a little by this point and was blowing nicely across the boat allowing us to reach all the way to the top of the island and the entrance to Pomena harbour. Pomena is the largest town on Miljet with a large hotel and key side which was partly occupied by large pleasure boats. As we slowly motored in the numerous restaurant owners tried to encourage is to moor at their restaurants but we chose to ignore these and headed for the town key which was empty other than the large pressure boats on the corner. As we got closer we were surprised that there was no to confirm we could moor there and hopefully assist but started to reverse the boat to harbour wall anyway. The mooring wasn’t perfect but we were safe and secure, although it had taken Tom to point out the very large bowsprit on one of the pleasure boats was a little close to our mast, in fact somehow I’d manged to get our boat between the bowsprit and the harbour. Rather than try and manoeuvre out of this position, and discretion being the better part of valour, we pulled the boat along the key side by hand. At this point an official looking lady appeared on the dock to be met by a certain member of our crew wanting to know “why nobody was there to assist with the mooring, like all the other harbours” to which the official replied ‘if you had radioed us on channel 11 like the sign on the entrance says we would have’, we pointed out the fact that there was no sign on the entrance in the direction we came in and that nobody ever seems to answer the radio in Croatia.

By this time an even more officious looking man dressed in black rolled up to lecture us on being polite to ‘Government Officials’ after which we ‘thanked’ both of them’ and then untied our ropes and left and as we did so posed the question ‘did the fact that the harbour was completely devoid of boats have anything to do with their helpfulness’, but didn’t wait around for the answer. I have to point out that this was a one off incident and that people in every other marina and harbour were very helpful. Having ruled ourselves out of a harbour berth we motored across the bay and moored at one of the restaurants opposite, Konoba Nine. Not having done any research this was a bit of a gamble but as it turned out this was one of the best meals we had all holiday and we didn’t have to pay mooring fees either.

Day 4 Pomena – Zaklapatika (Lastovo) 21Nm

 

After Pomena we headed for Zaklapatica on the Island of Lastovo. Although the leg was only 21 nautical miles, it was across open sea rather than the channels we had been acustomed too, but with very little wind the sea was flat calm. This did unfortunately mean we didn’t make much progress with the sails and had to resort to the engine again. At least the boat did come with a 30hp engine which was respectable for the boat’s size and we could motor comfortably at 6 knts. At lunch time we ancored a very nice bay at on the eastern tip of the Island for lunch, although Sarah was dissapointed that we weren’t anchored in the usual emerald green water and that we had at least two more metres of water under the keel than she wanted.

After a leisurly lunch we arrived at our destination relatively early and moored stern to the Neptune restaurant. We relaxed and had a swim before having a reasonable but not exceptional meal at ‘Neptune’, but at least we didn’t have far to walk back to the boat.

Day 5 Zaklapatika – Vela Luka 19 Nm (Kortula)

 

Day 5 was to be one of our shorter crossings and by this time our ‘optional’ gennaker was burning a hole in its bag so as soon as we left the harbour entrance we secured all the sheets and attempted to fly it, however It soon became clear that a sail for a 41ft boat was going to be very large on a 34ft boat.  By shortened the tack and hoisting the head as tight to the mast as we could we manged to getting it flying with the wind just filling it nicely but posing no real challenges.

 I’m pretty sure it must have look very impressive from a distance but from the boat it was hard to get a decent picture. We persevered with the sails for an hour or so before giving up and taking them down using the ‘tip’ Rebecca Slater had passed on, whereby the foresail should be used to blanket the gennaker whilst it was being lowered. This seemed to work well although it was never going to be a problem in such a light wind. After this we made our way to the obligitory bay for lunch where we spent quite a few hours as our destination was just around the corner. We did decide to go in to Vela Luka quite early as there seemed to be an endless stream of flotilla boats heading in there but it was a false alarm as the were all anchoring in a nearby bay and we were one of the first boats to moor on the harbour wall, this was probably not a bad thing as there was quite a strong cross wind blowing making mooring potentially tricky. As it turned out the crew were well drilled and the boat was succured with little fuss allowing to watch all the other boats ‘make a mess of it’ whilst we sipped our G & T. That night we ate at Ribar restaurant where we had a very good meal

Day 6 Vela Luka – Stari Grad 33 Nm

This was one of our longest legs so we set sail reasonably early but made good progress and were passing Hvar by lunch time. We diverted into the main harbour for a quick look but didn’t stop as we knew we would be back in a couple of days.

The whole area was very busy with boats of all sizes going everywhere so we moved on and made a lunch stop on the north side of the island in a long narrow bay. As there was a little bit of a swell in the bay we made it a relatively short stop before moving on and heading due east to the small town of Stari Grad. Berthing here was reasonable straight forward with the usual reversing towards the harbour wall to pass stern lines to the harbour master and collect the lazy line. 

 

The harbour contained a mixture of boats including some very large motor yachts complete with full crews. After a drink on the boat we walked around this very pleasant small town before stopping for cocktails. In the evening we ate at Kod Baba Luka which provided both good food and an excellent view

Day 7 Stari Grad – Maslinica (Solta) 23 Nm

 

By the time we left Stari Grad It was noticable that the weather was beginning to change a little, with the temperature a little lower and a reasonable wind blowing,  we had checked the forecast but there were no signs of anything too stong for some time. As we cleared the Island and got to open water, we could see across to the entrance to Kastella bay and the whole area was full of boats all under. We realised that most would be heading back to the Split area to return their boats as it was Friday, but we felt pleased with ourselves as we still had well over a week of our holiday left and were still heading north. The wind was in an ideal direction for us and we were able to make good progress using only sails.  After a good sail we reached the top of Solta and took the sails down before turning 90 degrees to starboard and headed towards the new marina at Maslinica.  As we did so we made a mental note of what a good place this area would be for a future lunch time stop given the proximity of a number a small islands and depths of between 3 and 6 meters in between them. Mooring at the marina was a simple affair as there were very few boats in there and it was well sheltered from the wind. Facilities at the marina were excellent and it provided a very nice stop over. A couple of hours after we had moored a very strong storm seemed to come from nowhere and provided 5 minutes of torrential rain and gale force winds, strong enough to uproot  umbrellas and scatter tables across the harbour.  We were very pleased we were safely secured in the harbour and not still at sea. Finding somewhere to eat that night proved a bit of a problem as a number of restaurants had to close due to damage caused by the wind but after a short wait we managed to find a table at one of the few restaurants still open.

Day 8 Maslinica  -  Primosten (Mainland) 20 Nm

 

By the morning the weather had improved and the rain had gone. Although the wind wasn’t especially strong the sea was a little confused because of the previous night’s storm and because of this we chose a route that took us inside a number of islands which made for a more comfortable journey but did put a few miles on the route. Lunch was taken in a nice sheltered bay very near to Rogoznica leaving us a short sail into Primosten. We were keen to arrive there reasonably early as we wanted to moor on the harbour wall rather than on one of the many buoys in the bay as the wind was threatening to pick up. Despite this we still managed to get a good sail in with the wind in a favourable direction. By this time the crew were very proficient and we left the sails up until the last minute, taking them down just in time to motor into the somewhat deserted harbour. Despite the freshening winds mooring was a simple affair aided by a very helpful harbour master, after which we relaxed with a drink and watched the harbour gradually fill up. Unfortunately we ended up with a large chartered 60ft ‘gin palace’ moored a couple of boats from us with a party of Germans who were determined to make as much noise during the afternoon as possible, fortunately they peaked too soon and were very subdued for the rest of the day. We took a walk and explored the town, which involved a circular trip as the town is situated at the end of a peninsula with only a small causeway attaching it to the mainland.  By late afternoon the threatened storm arrived providing a few millimetres of rain and some strong winds but stopped in time for us to enjoy a good evening meal in one of the quayside restaurants, although we did have to eat under cover. Primosten was one of the highlights of the trip and despite it being nearly 120 nautical miles from Dubrovnik we all felt it worth the effort.

Day 9 Primosten - Trogir (Mainland) 26 Nm (via Drvenik Veli)

 

As Primosten was our furthest point north day 9 involved retracing our steps as far as Kastella Bay before turning east to enter Trogir from the west side of the lifting bridge which we had been told doesn’t open any more. We had no definite plans on the lunchtime swim stop but had a couple of possibilities wind and waves permitting. It transpired all the early choices proved not to be ideal due to the choppy sea that was running and in the end we decided to deviate a little and visit the ‘blue lagoon’ on the Island of Drvenik Veli, so named because of the colour of the water, It is situated in a large inlet sheltered by a number of small islands. By the time we arrived it was pretty busy with 20 to 25 boats already anchored but it didn’t take too long to find a good spot in 4 metres of water.

As Trogir was only a short distance across the bay we were able to take a long break in this ideal spot before moving on. Due to the sheltered nature of the bay we hadn’t noticed that the wind had picked up noticeably over lunch but we took advantage of it and hoisted the sails within minutes of leaving the bay. As we cleared the shelter of the island we had a perfect beam reach in around 18knts of wind pushing the boat towards the magic 7 knts. Despite hitting some reasonably large chop the boat handled perfectly and provided the best sail to date allowing us to reach Trogir in relatively short time.

Day 10 Trogir – Milna (Brac) 18 Nm

At only 18 nautical miles this was one of our shortest leg so after some additional shopping we set sail and after playing with the gennaker for a little while we motored back to the blue lagoon for a leisurely lunch and swim, after which we headed south towards Milna at the bottom end of Brac.  As we had plenty of time and the wind was favourable we sailed for a high proportion of the journey and despite lights winds managed to ‘out run’ a 50ft Beneteau, which pleased the crew. Later on in the journey we experimented with running the engine at low revs whilst leaving the sails up and were very surprised how efficient it was, maintaining 6 knts with very little power in a reasonably light wind. As we ran south along the coast of Brac we decided to give the gennaker another go and after struggling to get it to fill at first we achieved success once we were able to tighten up slightly onto a reach after we had passed the widest point of the island. Gradually the wind increased and soon we were able to dispense with the engine with the boat sailing perfectly under main and gennaker as the wind both continued to increase and also to head up 5 or 10 degrees. Given the oversize sail we were flying the boat was soon heeling beyond the comfort zone of the crew and also the auto pilot's ability to keep the boat traveling in a straight line and stop it pointing up during gusts, which of course caused the boat to heel further creating a vicious circle.  After contemplating taking the sail down but deciding against it, we soon found that by bearing away during prolonged gusts we could both flatten the angle and extract a lot more speed and  were happily moving much quicker than all the boats around us. Although our track on the auto pilot made it look like a drunk had been steering the boat we made very rapid progress with speeds over 7.5 knts regularly visible on the log. Despite the wind being quite strong we took all the sails down and moored safely in one of the two Marinas in Milna. In our haste to moor this turned out to poor decision as this marina offered no shelter from either the wind or the large boats wash as they entered or left Milna. By comparison the ACI Marina just around the corner offered both and also had the advantage of not being built on the site of a Sardine Factory!

Despite having a very nice meal at Gajeta Konoba, one of the few good restaurants, Milna must go down as our least desirable stop and has the unenviable claim of being the only one we would not choose to visit again.

Day 11 Milna – Hvar (Hvar Island) 14 Nm

 

Day 11 should have been our easiest leg and could have been achievable in not much more than two hours but a very strong easterly provided some challenges. First getting off our berth proved very hard (not least due to the fact we only had a short motor boat on our windward) and the minute the lazy line was eased the bow pushed hard against the unoccupied yacht to our lee preventing us from moving forward at sufficient speed to get any steerage against the strong cross wind. A bow thruster would of course have made this manoeuvre a lot simpler. With hindsight we should have either waited for other boats to leave or at least kept our windward stern rope tight and powered against that but with a little assistance from other people we managed to get into the main channel with only our pride damaged. It was however, a good reminder not to get over confident and always think through every eventuality before proceeding. Once out of Milna the sea was calm as we motored to the bottom of the island but after we turned around the bottom of the Island and went through the gap between Brac and Solta we were exposed to a fairly lumpy sea on our back quarter for an hour and a half, hoisting some sail would have improved the ride considerably and quickened the journey but after the stress of getting out of Milna harbour it hadn’t been a consideration. As we got closer to the northern end of the Island of Hvar we started to see a lot more yachts, most of which were under full sail and the water flattened out very quickly as we moved into the lee of Hvar and motored to a bay just north of the town of Hvar where we anchored for lunch Although we anchored securely we decided it would be a good idea to secure the stern to a rock to keep the bows pointing out the bay. This was easily achieved by a short swim with the end of 25 metres of rope in my teeth. Following lunch we motored across the channel to the ACI marina at Palmizana. Although busy mooring here was simple and it had very good facilities. After a rest we caught one of the regular water taxis to Hvar town opting for the high speed variety which consisted of a rib with 2 x 150hp engines. Once the driver realised most of the passengers were happy for a high speed ride he choose a route around the stern of multiple large boats moving up the channel, this is of course involved the boat becoming airborne on multiple locations and not a kill cord in sight! Once ashore we took in the sights of Hvar and walked up to the castle to admire the view before having a nice Thai meal in the square followed by a few drinks on the front before catching the return taxi back to the Marina.

Day 12 Hvar - Korcula (Koctula Island) 35 Nm

 

Day 12 was the longest leg of the holiday at 35 nautical miles but a relatively straightforward sail in a south east direction and by this time we were familiar enough with the plotter to enter full routes with multiple waypoints. We made a reasonably early start and headed past the town of Hvar for the last time before heading out into the open sea for a fairly uneventful journey having anchored in the bay where Loviste is situated for lunch. Shortly after lunch we came across a school of dolphins which kept us entertained for a while. The entry to Korcula is a fairly impressive one with the channel narrowing gradually as you approach. As always seems to be the case the ACI marina responded to our radio message saying they were full so instead of going to one of the smaller marinas we decided to anchor in the large bay just south of the town. Having had problems anchoring here in previous years we made absolutely sure  we put plenty of anchor chain down and also secured our stern using a couple of ropes in a v shape, Tom using the time to practice his bowline tying capabilities. As we had lunch we witnessed many boats trying to anchor here with mixed results with one even managing to wrap the stern rope around the propeller. As we were reasonable confident of our mooring we booked one of the many water taxis and went into Korcula for the evening. One of the highlights of this was cocktails at the top of one of the old turrets which surround the town after which we selected a restaurant which gave us a view of our boats anchor light. This gave us peace of mind although I’m not sure what we would have done if we witnessed the light moving. We returned to the boat later that evening to find it where we left it but the bay was now a little more crowded with a number of other boats anchoring near us.

Day 13 Korcula - Okuklje (Miljet) 28

 

The night past without incident although we were awoken reasonably early by a commotion nearby as the yacht with the rope (still) fowled around the prop was towed away from the nearby rocks to the comparative safety of the middle of bay by the equivalent of the coast guard. We had all planned to visit the Supermarket in Korcula in the tender but as the wind had picked up a little we decided it prudent to lift the anchor and loiter outside the harbour entrance whilst Tom and Sarah nipped to the Supermarket in the tender.  The early start meant we made very good time to Okuklje although the early part of the journey was a little uncomfortable, partly due to a noticeably lower temperature, but mainly as we were motoring head on into some reasonably large waves. Although we explored a couple of bays on the journey none were deemed suitable so we headed straight for Okuklje and anchored in the middle of the bay for lunch after which we went ashore to decide which restaurant we wanted to go to prior to ‘committing ourselves’ by taking advantage of one of their free moorings. In the end we opted for the Mistral restaurant and sampled the traditional ‘lamb under the bell’ which everyone seemed to enjoy.

Day 14 Okulje to Dubrovnik 20 Nm

 

We reluctantly left Okulje knowing that this was our final stop and made our way back to the boats home base in Dubrovnik choosing to visit the same bay as we had visited on day 1 for our lunch stop, having rejected two others on route. We spent some time here before heading back and as the wind started to fill we had one last opportunity to fly the gennaker one more time. As we passed gaps between the many islands the wind often increased up to 20 knts but by then we were fully accustomed to the large sail and achieved a good speed with very little fuss. We finally took this and the mainsail down as we started to head up the river where the fuel station and marina were located. We arrived back around 3.30pm and after the obligatory checks on the boat by the charter company we caught a taxi in Dubrovnik for a very nice evening, eating at the Bistro Teatar. We also went back the next day for a walk around the city walls and a trip up the cable car to view the city from the hills before returning to the marina’s swimming pool. Our transfer arrived at 4.00pm to take us back to Split airport to conclude our very enjoyable holiday.     

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